The Plague

There are many diseases around the world that pose an insignificant risk (thankfully) to the average tourist. Occasionally however there is an isolated outbreak of a disease that whilst affecting the local population, may also be of concern for specific groups of travellers. Plague is one disease that comes to mind, with a current outbreak in Madagascar.

The history of plague outbreaks makes for interesting reading. The Black Death is the term often applied to the bubonic plague pandemic that hit medieval Europe and by mid-1348 had found its way to Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux and London, resulting in millions of deaths. A subsequent pandemic that started in China in 1855 was considered to still be active until as late as 1955 (as per the World Health Organisation). These days human plague cases can still be found around the world, including the United States, but since the early 1990’s most cases are found in Africa.  Plague is transmitted to humans through contact with infected fluid and tissues, via infectious droplets (pneumonic plague) but most often through the bites of infected fleas. Rats are the common carrier of these fleas, thus aiding in the disease spread.

Prevention centres around flea and rat avoidance, wearing of gloves if handling or skinning potentially infected animals and the use of DEET containing repellents on skin and clothing, particularly if involved in outdoor activities in infected areas. Avoid contact with animals that roam free such as street dogs, as these may carry infected fleas.

Thankfully, although plague is  a very serious illness that still results in deaths each year, it is treatable with commonly available antibiotics, with early detection and treatment providing the best outcomes for recovery.

If you are looking for more information on plague, please check out the CDC web site https://www.cdc.gov/plague